Hamilton

Horwath points to 'extreme neglect' at Rosslyn, says owners should have licences stripped

Andrea Horwath has released a scathing statement pointing to "extreme neglect and suffering" at the Rosslyn Retirement Residence and demanding the province revoke the operating licences for all care homes in Hamilton associated its owners.

Ontario NDP leader also says retirement homes regulator should be replaced

The Rosslyn Retirement Residence was completely emptied on May 15. Now Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the province to revoke the operating licence of its owner. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Andrea Horwath has released a scathing statement pointing to "extreme neglect and suffering" at the Rosslyn Retirement Residence and demanding the province revoke the operating licences for all care homes in Hamilton associated its owners.

"No senior should ever again have to live in a facility that puts their health, safety and wellbeing at risk," wrote the Ontario NDP leader. "Doug Ford must pull the licences right now before these owners can inflict more pain and suffering, and have the province or a non-for-profit take over these homes."

The Rosslyn is the site of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in Hamilton.

Property records show the home is associated with the Martino family, which ran the Royal Crest Lifecare chain of homes until it "collapsed" into bankruptcy in 2003, "leaving the Ontario taxpayers on the hook for $18 million," according to the NDP's release.

Fourteen residents have died of the virus following an outbreak that infected 64 people living there and 22 staff members.

The home was evacuated on May 15 with the majority of residents being transported to hospital for care, but one resident was left behind without care for nearly a day. The mistake wasn't discovered until the next evening, after his family insisted he hadn't been transferred to hospital.

Representatives of the Rosslyn have not responded to repeated calls and emails seeking comment about the conditions at the home, the outbreak and plans to bring residents back.

It's not clear where residents will end up if the home were to close permanently, a question family members have raised but not received answers to.

Even before it was emptied, inspections by public health and Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) identified issues around infection prevention and control and "failure to protect residents from neglect" and ordered the owner to make changes before it could reopen.

A more recent inspection of the kitchen of the shuttered home uncovered mouse droppings, black mould and "fuzzy dust."

"The Rosslyn Retirement Residence is a house of horrors, not a home," wrote Horwath in her statement, describing conditions at the home as "squalid."

"We saw harrowing evidence of extreme neglect and suffering, even before COVID-19 hit," she added. "I'm calling on the province to remove all licences this ownership group holds, and to ensure they never again are allowed to operate any kind of congregate living home where vulnerable people can be neglected and hurt."

After the Rosslyn was cleared public health launched urgent inspections of seven other homes associated with the Martinos.

They included four retirement homes — Dundas Retirement Place, Northview Seniors Residence, Cathmar Manor and Montgomery Retirement Home — as well as three residential care facilities, Emerald Lodge and Victoria Manor I and II.

Public health officials cited "significant staffing challenges" as one reason residents at Rosslyn were transferred to hospital. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Public health ended up issuing orders to four of the homes, citing basic areas of concern including infection protocols, along with screening of visitors.

"The warning signs were there and they were ignored," said Horwath. "For years now, families have reported multiple violations and substandard care at the residences owned by this group."

The NDP leader also took aim at the RHRA, calling it "toothless" and saying it should be replaced by an independent body with "real enforcement powers and a clear mandate to protect seniors."

The RHRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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